Given the fact that ground won’t even break in Brazil for several months, we can’t review Gil Hanse’s golf course for the Rio Games in 2016 just yet, but we can certainly preview the project and speculate on how good the layout might end up being. Analysis below was based on the preliminary routing plan produced by Hanse’s team for the judges’ consideration.
The map is featured below.
A few quick observations.
Inspired Inspiration - Gil Hanse nominated the Melbourne Sandbelt as providing a template for how these low-lying holes might look when finished. Unlike others, Hanse is not just paying lip service to the region as his plan shows a clear and practical understanding of the strategic nature of the bunkering down under. There are a number of holes here that feature broad landing areas but tight, well-protected driving corridors for those looking to make birdies.
A map MacKenzie would have been proud of - The bunkering, the strategy and the ease and flow of Hanse’s routing are all worthy of appreciation here, but perhaps the standout feature of the map is the shape and theory behind some of the green complexes. Noted writer, and part-time Hanse collaborator, Geoff Shackelford warns not to expect the final product to completely resemble the drawn plan, but there are clear assumptions to be made. Holes like the 7th, 9th and 16th will play completely different according to where the flag is located on the green. Using the far left edge of the 9th or 16th greens, for example, would appear to force those looking at birdie to have to drive tight down the right hand side. By contrast, the right side looks ideal for the 7th hole, except when the pin is tucked over on the far right. Hanse isn’t the only designer that likes to draw irregular shaped greens, but these are genuinely creative and there appears a sound theory behind each wing and lobe.
Long live the short par four – We expected nothing less from Gil Hanse, but it is nice to see some strategic looking short par fours on the plan as well. The 16th, in particular, looks a cracking concept and is perfectly placed in the round to directly influence how the medals are distributed. From the tee both laying up short and hitting long and left are obvious plays, but the narrow right side also seems an enticing option when the hole is cut on the far left side of the green. The 9th looks another fascinating short par four, with multiple routes and countless options for the tournament organizers and regular course operators to set up play.
Throughout his layout, Hanse uses strategic fairway bunkering to encourage thoughtful placement from the tee and his holes are clearly aimed at testing both power and finesse in equal measure. If the standard of construction and shaping mirrors the standard, conceptually, of the routing plan, then the golfers of Rio are in for a real treat. Beyond the actual 18 golf holes, the tree-lined driving range and integrated practice facility look first-rate as well.
We are genuinely excited by the prospects for this course, and look forward to seeing how it turns out.